Swedes rise to the occasion
While there were many stories deserving of attention in the final hour of competition between Group B teams yesterday, it was the Swedes who rose to the occasion and did what needed to be done in order to cement their advancement on to the second round.
In an exciting match with England, which controlled the first half of play, Sweden managed to tie the Brits 2-2, thus putting Trinidad and Tobago behind them for good.
While Trinidad dropped its final game to Paraguay, losing all chance at advancement, the Swedish players had no idea of that fact, and in scoring two goals on an English team that seemed to give more and more as the game went on, it was enough to leave the Soca Warriors in the dust ” even if they had muscled out a win.
Even with Michael Owen’s exit from the game after a faulty foot plant that looked to result in a serious knee injury, England’s defense managed to stay strong.
Further bolstered by a brilliant goal ” perhaps one of the best so far in the cup ” by Joe Cole, England looked to be unstoppable.
However, even after Cole masterfully brought down a clearance on his chest only to full volley it just close enough to Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson’s outstretched fingers to tease the keeper with a save that would only glance off the upper far post and into the back of the net, Sweden refused to die.
Set pieces ” specifically corners ” were the name of the game for the Swedes.
With about half a dozen consecutive corner kicks finished either into the net, off the woodwork or nearly over, England was on dangerous ground giving up balls off its own endline.
Often, what makes a game exciting is the dominated team knicking goals and making things interesting, and Sweden most certainly did that.
After Marcus Allback deftly flicked in a neat near-post corner to tie things up, England definitely lost its domination.
For the remaining 39 minutes the game was largely back and forth, with England continuing to showcase fluid, smooth play and Sweden continuing to showcase dangerous and unexpected set pieces.
Points were earned by England’s wingers on the day, with Steven Gerrard heading in the Brits second goal to regain the lead.
With Paraguay up by two goals in Kaiserslautern, a loss didn’t matter for Sweden’s advancement, but again, the Swedes didn’t know that.
Assured of a second-round game, England didn’t need to keep the lead. But with pride on the line and, more importantly, a potential match-up with Germany ” which has dominated their group ” Sven Goran Eriksson’s boys were better off ahead.
Henrik Larsson had other ideas, however, as he exploited a lackluster and nightmarish defensive moment by the entire English back line and gently helped on a long throw into the back of the ‘ole onion bag in the 90th minute to further seal the Swedes as set piece masters in a game otherwise dominated by the English.
With a 2-2 tie, the Swedes took matters into their own hands and advanced themselves to the second round.
Celebrations may be short lived, however, as Swedish fans realize that their boys must now face off with the Germans, who enter the second round with three wins and rapid momentum in front of an always powerful home crowd.
Alex Close is a sports writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.